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energy security

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A Glimpse at the Future of Renewable Energy

If our nation and world are to harness renewable energies and become truly independent of fossil fuels, it will take more than new technologies to complete the transition. We will also need some way in which to manage the various resources so we can keep our energy grid operating at maximum capacity with minimum down time—in short to maintain a state that delivers as much power as the current electrical grid, at less cost and damage to the environment. Solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass, geothermal and other energy sources are all subject to large changes in the amount of power they can produce at any particular time. Clouds block the sun, the wind dies, water flow changes—how can we balance our energy needs with what we can produce?

A company in California has taken a first step towards anticipating and managing renewable energy sources. Space Time Insight has developed geospatial and visual analytics solutions that synthesize real-time meteorological, geothermal and other data into intuitive visual displays that help energy managers anticipate power production. Several utility companies are already using the company’s software to help them augment power from the traditional electrical grid. By monitoring conditions, energy managers can tap into available sources and plan for shortages before they happen.

Photo: a graphical representation of solar power generation (green) and availability (red) in California and Arizona, with cloud cover.

 

Nextek Power Systems’ Direct Current equipment and systems are part of this movement towards energy independence, and use a similar approach. Our building and microgrid solutions, which are based on solar power generation, automatically manage available power sources, drawing from solar panels, then battery storage, before they tap into the AC grid, to keep energy expenses as low as possible for customers. This is the future of electric power.

 

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100 Years Later, Edison May Get His Revenge

In the early 1900s Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla battled over which electrical system would power the nation. Edison believed in Direct Current and Tesla was a proponent of Alternating Current. Ulitimately, AC won because it could be transmitted over long distances, while DC power degraded after less than a mile. But recent advancements in DC technology may ultimately reverse that century-old decision.

AC power has its drawbacks. Its extremely high voltages and amperages make it dangerous to handle. The ever-expanding use of semi conductors in most of the appliances and equipment we use today, which only use DC, means AC power must be converted, and that process causes up to a 30% power loss, mostly through heat. In addition, worldwide concern over depleting resources like oil and coal, which are used to create electricity, has industries and governments looking towards renewable sources for power creation, such as solar, wind and biofuels, all of which produce DC.

DC’s ability to run on renewable energy sources is also attractive to facilities that need to operate in “island mode,” independent of the AC grid, in case of a supply failure or for the purpose of energy security. Building systems that incorporate small, self-contained electricity distribution networks known as microgrids are also of interest to governments and especially military installations that worry about terrorist attacks.

The growing DC industry, of which Nextek Power Systems, Inc. is a proud member, has made significant progress in creating equipment and systems that save not only valuable resources, but also energy expenses for the businesses and organizations that use them. A recent Nextek demonstration project at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona showed how DC power could save the Army base in energy costs now, and save millions of dollars in the future by avoiding reconfiguration costs thanks to the DC system’s flexibility compared to AC.  Additionally, because the installation uses renewable energy created at the site, it is not at the mercy of the AC grid for its power.

Past problems with transmission have been solved too, as the recent installation of DC power systems, covering hundreds of miles, have been seen in Europe and China. In the not too distant future DC power may be the dominant mode of electrical transmission, and Thomas Edison may regain his stature as the king of electricity.

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